Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Expat Option

With the economies in North America and Europe mired in seemingly permanent low growth or recessionary environments, some people are looking at leaving these high-cost areas of the world behind for a year or more or even permanently.
If you are among that number, check out the blog post by Tim Leffel on the cheapest places in the world to live at He talks about a number of countries where costs are between one-third and one-tenth as high as they are for various items in his reference country, the United States. His choices are centred mainly in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and some of them sound pretty appealing. For example, he posts a picture of a modern kitchen in a two bedroom, two bath apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador. It rents for only $500 per month, about one-quarter to one-fifth or what a similar apartment would cost where I live.
For people with savings or guaranteed income from pensions or investments, tough times can be times of opportunity if they are willing to think outside the box. An international move can open up new vistas and provide low-cost opportunities for extensive travel.
I have lived overseas for extended periods twice, both times in connection with studies in Western Europe. The first time was in Bologna, Italy, and during that year I was able to travel throughout most of Western Europe on school and summer holidays and still graduate on time and with honours. During a shorter stay in Dublin, Ireland, I tacked on visits to France, a safari in Kenya and a Mediterranean cruise, by cashing in some retirement savings, a move I have never regretted.
Anyone considering becoming an expatriate needs to do some research, preferably on site. This can be costly, but it's a lot better than moving somewhere sight unseen and then deciding you don't like it.
Blogs written by other expats are a good source of information, and by connecting with bloggers online you may have some ready made friends when you decide to explore your possible new home.
For instance, the site lists a number of blogs written by foreigners living in Russia, my dream expat destination. Working in Moscow as a journalist is among the things I would really like to do--I'd also work as an English teacher under the right conditions.
But enough about me. Stop just dreaming about the expat lifestyle--if you are tempted, give it a whirl. If it doesn't work out, you can always go home enriched by your adventures abroad.



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